Since October 2016 the Ecole Blondeau has been at the forefront of a research programme in partnership with the INRA (National institute for agricultural research) and the Normandy Region. Jocelyne Porcher is the director of the programm, known as CHEVALEDUC. The main thrust of the research is on the development of new and effective alternative methods of training young horses in order to maintain the safety of professionals in the world of equitation and to respond to the needs of the animal’s well-being whilst at work.
Public opinion today is sensitive to respect for animals and requires professions that work with them to re-examine their working practices. Hence the equine world is increasingly under scrutiny by the population, which is questioning the quality of the working relationship with horses. Animal welfare is studied within equine organisations from the point of view of the living conditions of domestic horses. And yet following the pattern set out in Travail Animal (Jocelyne Porcher ANR COW INRA) we are exploring the quality of the relationship between riders and young horses at the beginning of their learning process. Professionals in the field have difficulty when faced with the behaviour of horses that have been deprived of good basic education - a situation which carries with it some behavioural characteristics that could be dangerous for both man and animal. It is the need for coherence in training the young horse and the person that concerns us here. The horses in question are those destined for racing, be it flat, steeplechase, trotting, Olympic disciplines or for leisure alone. This programme is the opportunity to show the importance of harmonising the education of young horses and easing their first interaction with humans within their common working environment. Once established as an initial training programme this learning process will become a guarantee of professionalism in an activity that is not yet recognised as an independent speciality.
The conclusions of this research will lead to proposals for new and effective alternative ways of ensuring the safety and security of all professionals working with horses, and for forms of education and training that will ensure the mental and physical health of the working horse. The equine world needs also to adapt to economic reality which among other things is pressurising owners to put their horses into competition at an ever-younger age. It follows that much earlier education for young horses and people working together is needed. Thereafter, through the socio-professional analysis of equine trades, there is a need to understand how to encourage professionals to change their ideas and habits and to adopt different methods that will ensure the safety of both men and horses whilst at the same time promoting better performance in sport.
Scientific and Technical Aims:
The results of the ANR COW programme (Animal companions: conceptualising relationships of animals at work 2012/2016) led to scientific validation of the existence of animal subjectivity when working with humans.
Starting from this postulate, the main aim of our research is to demonstrate that education of young horses using the Blondeau method is organised as initial professional training for the horse and at the same time professional training that is focused on the man-horse relationship. Coherence of the method is ensured by the fact that the learning process takes place in a shared educational environment.
If we wish an animal at work to make effort to contribute to the task beyond what human actions and orders require of it, it has to be trained so that it can acquire the necessary skill. Conduct learned by the young horse before it begins to work with man becomes the foundation of its future training in whatever discipline it is destined for.
Changes in professional practices most often meet resistance from professionals when the latter see no interest in new practices-especially if they ‘were not invented here. Only those who work know how they operate and therefore how they might change their methods. Socio-professional analysis of the equine environment will highlight such resistance and obstacles and will thereafter lead to ways of driving changes appropriate to each specialisation.
A manual on the education of young horses in the light of more thorough knowledge of the Blondeau method and its possible use in improving animal welfare when working with man.
- Expansion of existing certificated training programmes. The programme will lead to the establishment of a database covering the various steps in the method of education of the young horse, which will in turn broaden consideration of training methodology. It will be possible to build a structure that holds the necessary teaching tools to train horse and man together in a manner adapted to the expectations of equine professionals and of animal welfare.
- Establishment of a defined function within the equine world of educator of young horses. - A set of methods for developing professionals’ working practices to achieve improved working conditions and greater respect for animal welfare. - Recommendations for prevention of accidents at work.
Presentation of Research Activity: CHEVALEDUC is a multi-disciplinary programme which calls upon disciplines that have much to offer to the analysis of both human and animal work practices. It is aimed at professionals in the equine world, at researchers and at organisations involved in training and health and safety at work, and those that examine conditions of animal welfare. To become able to work ‘properly’ with the animal means anticipating situations that put human health at risk as well as those that lead to maltreatment of the animal. The scientific element of the work clinic opens up the possibility of revisiting established practices in the equine world.